Los Angeles Airport 101: The best way to get to LAX

Mar 7, 2020

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Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the second-busiest airport in the U.S. and the fourth-busiest in the world. Traffic is projected to rise to up to 100 million passengers by 2040 — so chances are you may soon transit through LAX. The airport serves as a hub for Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United and is a focus city for Air New Zealand, Allegiant Air, Norwegian, Qantas, and Southwest Airlines.

The airport is located about five miles from Manhattan Beach, nine miles from Santa Monica, 13 miles from Beverly Hills, 14 miles from Hollywood and 17 miles from Downtown LA.

To get there, you can either use bus, light rail, car, ride-hailing and ride-sharing services, taxi, shuttle van, black car services or even helicopter. Here’s a closer look at how each option works and how much it costs.

Public transportation

While LA’s public transportation system still isn’t great (it’s improving!), you can shuttle to Lot South / LAX City Bus Center and transfer to a public bus. There’s also a shuttle bus to connect from LAX to the Metro Green Line, which connects to both the Metro Silver Line bus and Metro Blue Line light rail to take you into Downtown’s 7th/Metro Center station.

FlyAway offers frequent nonstop bus service between LAX and various parts of the city. (Photo courtesy of LAX)

Alternatively, you can hop on a FlyAway bus from LAX to Hollywood, Long Beach, Union Station (Downtown LA) or Van Nuys for $8 to $9.75, one-way. The buses pick up and drop off directly in front of the terminals. Tickets can be bought online or in person.

Transit time: Long

Cost: $

Related: The best credit cards for commuting

Ride-share

All ride-hailing pickups are at the “LAX-it” lot, a dedicated pickup space adjacent to Terminal 1. Regardless of your arrival terminal, you have to take a shuttle or walk to this lot if you want to use a ride-hailing service — this includes apps like Uber and Lyft. Drop offs, however, remain in front of passengers’ respective terminals.

Related: The best credit cards for Uber and Lyft

Los Angeles International Airport moved all taxi and ride-hailing pick ups to the “LAX-it” lot in 2019. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Aside from that minor inconvenience, using Uber, Lyft or other ride-hailing services out of the airport is relatively easy and reasonably priced. Manhattan Beach is about 15 minutes away and would cost about $20 if you Uber, Santa Monica is about 30 minutes away and would cost $30, Beverly Hills is 35 minutes away and would cost $34, Hollywood is about 40 minutes away and would cost $40 and Downtown LA is 35 minutes away and would cost $32, but give yourself plenty of extra time with LA traffic. You can drive that price down by opting for a shared vehicle, but expect time to be added to your trip.

A bonus of the pickup lot? It features food trucks, charging stations and restrooms for travelers while they wait for their rides.

Transit time: Medium

Cost: $$

Related: How to make sure you’re getting your Amex Platinum Uber credits

Taxi

Like Uber and Lyft, taxis currently pick up from the LAX-it lot, but drop off curbside. However, this will change later in March 2020. There will be designated taxi pickup areas on the ground floor of Parking Structure 3 (near Tom Bradley International Terminal and Terminal 3) and on the arrivals level past the last entrance to Terminals 7/8.

Taxis offer flat rates to various parts of the city. To give you a general idea, the flat rate to go to West Hollywood costs $44 and Downtown LA costs $50, including the $4 airport pickup surcharge.

Transit time: Medium

Cost: $$$

Car service

If you want to be picked up from the terminal curb front, you can request a black car service like Uber Black or GroundLink. It’s a more expensive option, but also much more convenient. Prearranged car services are especially great for families as they allow you to book car seats for children or send a note that you’re traveling with a pet.

If you request a meet and greet service, your driver will park and wait for you with a sign at the arrivals area and help you with your luggage. Otherwise, you’ll find your driver waiting outside at the arrivals level.

Transit time: Short

Cost: $$$$

(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)
Book a car service to be dropped off and picked up curbside. (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

Other options

If you’re renting a car, board your rental agency’s respective shuttle outside the terminal on the arrivals level. If family or friends offer to pick you up at the airport, Los Angeles Airport has a cellphone lot where they can wait for free for up to two hours or they can park for free for 15 minutes in one of the central terminal area parking structures.

If you’re traveling between LAX and Downtown LA and really want to skip traffic, you can book a Blade helicopter. The “Uber for aviation” service offers private airport transfers for $3,300, or you book a seat on a scheduled flight for $345, though unfortunately, the scheduled service doesn’t run as frequently as it does in NYC.

To help offset the cost of a BLADE helicopter ride, you can use the TPG referral code: BRIANF&F and receive $50 in BLADE credit.

The easiest way to avoid LA traffic is by flying over it. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

There are many ways to get to and from LAX, but some transportation options are better than others. Aside from having to take a shuttle to the designated ride-hailing lot, using Uber, Lyft or other ride-hailing services out of the airport is relatively easy and reasonably priced. A more cost effective option would be taking public transportation or a scheduled bus service, though it’s not very convenient. If you want to be picked up curbside, you’ll need to order a black car service.

Further reading:

Featured image by Mitch Diamond/Getty Images.

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